The Spirit’s Witness to the Saint – Romans 8:14-16

Last week, in our scripture reading, we read about Satan’s temptation of our Saviour. Jesus had been fasting forty days, so in His humanity He was hungry, and the Devil attacked at that point. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Christ refused, and quoted an appropriate scripture. Then He was taken to a pinnacle of the temple where He was urged to jump. Satan said, God “shall give his angels charge concerning thee” and you’ll be caught. Again Christ refused. After his initial failures, the Devil told our the Lord that if he merely bowed before him, He would be given all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus responded “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
Do you remember how Satan introduced each of those three temptations? It was always the same. “If thou be the Son of God…. If thou be the Son of God…. If thou be the Son of God…. “ I am not going to suggest that Satan had any doubts about the deity of Christ – that He is the Second Person of the God-head; that He is the only begotten Son of God. Satan is undoubtedly convinced of these things, but that was part of his attack never-the-less. And since he came at the unique Son of God in this way, we should not be surprised if he should come at us, in the same way. After all, we are only adopted into God’s family. “What makes YOU think you are a son or daughter of God – a child of the King?”
Even without Satan’s wicked intentions, that is a really good question for any Christian to consider. “Why do you think you are a child of the King?” The question may even intensify the longer we live in this Christian life. The more we grow in the Lord the worse we know ourselves to be – only sinners saved by grace. The more mature we become – the more spiritual we become – the more we see ourselves to be unworthy of the Lord’s blessings – even the least of those blessings, let alone salvation. At any point in our Christian lives – from immediately after our new birth to just before our earthly death, the question may arise – “What makes you think you have eternal life, and you are free from condemnation?” If your answer is: “I was baptized on such-and-such a date,” you may not be a Christian. If your answer is: “I am a member of such-and-such Baptist church,” you are probably not saved. If your answer is: “I hope that I am good enough to be one of God’s own,” then you are probably not. Our answer ought to be – “God’s Holy Spirit has told me so.” Your personal opinion in this matter is not enough – what does God testify as to your spiritual condition? “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
My purpose this morning is to consider HOW the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The Bible declares it right here in black and white – so it must be true. But can I actually describe or express the way in which the Holy Spirit speaks to my human spirit?
Well, a part of it is much the same for the Christian as it was before he was born again.
Do you remember what it was like when you were first being introduced to the gospel? It might not have been the first time the words were spoken, but it was the first time they entered your soul. Do you remember how you cringed at being told you were a sinner, and yet something inside your heart told you it was true? You were not just a sinner, but a wretched, despicable sinner – worthy of the hottest flames in Hell. Do you remember that somehow your slightest sin suddenly became monstrous and intense? Do you recall how your heart melted and your knees folded until you were on your spiritual face before the cross of Christ? Whether or not you understood at the time, that was the ministry of the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin.
For the children of God that ministry never goes away, because the Spirit never changes or leaves God’s child. Verse 9 – “The Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” I Cor. 3:16 – “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” The world doesn’t know or recognize God’s Spirit, “but YE know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” until that day you are glorified with Christ for eternity – and even then He will be with you. NOW, just because you have been forgiven and have been given a new nature, that doesn’t mean God hates your sins any less, or that the Holy Spirit will stop convicting you of your transgressions of God’s will.
Romans 8 provides a crash course in “Pneumatology” – it give us the “Cliff notes” on the Holy Spirit. We don’t have time to look at every verse and expand on every statement. But the chapter begins with: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” – the Holy Spirit. And “the Spirit itself beareth witness (sometimes clashes) with our spirit,” when we are beginning to walk after the flesh, because “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” When the child of God begins to stray from God’s righteous path, the Spirit will speak to his spirit, convicting and speaking to his conscience. The Spirit will be grieved at the Christian and his sins, making that person well aware of His sorrow. Verse 8 – “They that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
It is a ministry of the Spirit to plunge his sword into the heart of our wicked flesh whenever it tries to take control. Have you not felt it? “Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (slay) the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit” every time we become aware of the Spirit’s mortification ministry – when He is chopping at the wicked fruit in our lives. This is definitely not pleasant, but there is a blessing in knowing “Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
An even richer blessing is when He speaks to us before we commit that transgression.
In several scriptures we read of the Holy Spirit both restraining sin and encouraging righteous behavour.
Verse 14 – “For as many as are LED by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God.” How may I know that I am a child of God? His Spirit leads me. And in what direction does the Spirit lead? Always away from sin and towards righteousness. The Holy Spirit sometimes guides us in important decisions and toward solutions for our problems. How did Peter end up in Caesarea talking with Cornelius the Centurion? “While {Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” How did Philip know to address the man on the desert road riding toward Ethiopia? “The Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” How did Paul and Silas end up preaching the gospel in Philippi? “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” The Holy Spirit often directs spiritually-sensitive hearts in the details of their lives. But in a more general way, He guides them towards the Saviour; towards righteousness.
Paul wrote to his friends in Galatia encouraging them in the things of the Lord. In Galatians 5:16 he wrote – “This we say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” What is it to walk in the Spirit? How can someone walk in ways of the Holy Spirit? Is that the same as living according to the law or living by what we read in the New Testament? According to the context of Paul’s statement, obedience to the law is not the same as walking in the Spirit. Of course, the Holy Spirit never contradicts the Bible, but striving to obey God’s Word does not necessarily mean we are surrendered to His leadership.
I am getting ahead of myself, but some of the most comforting words which the Lord Jesus shared with His disciples were about the Holy Spirit. “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” and “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” That Holy Spirit guidance is not just in regard to eschatology – future events – like the Lord’s return. Rather “and when he is come, he will reprove … of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The Holy Spirit will not only reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, but also God’s saints.
Going back to Galatians 5:16 – “This we say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” How can I know that I am a child of God? “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” How may I have confidence that I have been eternally saved? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God (in the way of righteousness) they are the sons of God.”
It seems to me that each one of my points today overlap with other points until they loose their distinctive edge. But that’s just the nature of this message. Every part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit synchronizes with every other part.
The Holy Spirit beareth witness with our spirits when He teaches us.
There are Christian doctrines which are so foreign to the mind of fallen man that no amount of education can drive them into his brain. The people of ancient Athens were much like our modern intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals. As Paul awaited Timothy to return from Thessalonica he was grieved by the idolatry of the Athenians. “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? And they took him and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest is? When Paul preached to them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, some mocked and others just shook their heads in dismay. For the most part, the most intelligent people in Greece couldn’t make sense out of simple gospel truth.
Perhaps you were once like those Athenians – blissfully ignorant of God and His message. But then you were miraculously born again and indwelt by the Spirit – the earnest of God’s inheritance. At that point the Holy Spirit began to teach you about some of the great mysteries of Jehovah. You learned about the resurrection of Christ, and that He is coming again – soon – imminently. The Spirit began to teach you about God’s infinite love, power and grace. You began to believe doctrines which you once hated – like sovereign grace, foreordination and predestination.That you have learned, and now joyfully believe, things which you once denied and hated is proof that “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Again, Christ Jesus told his disciples in John 16 – “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” Do you remember how the disciples responded? “What is this he saith unto us?” Those words were just the point – at the time they couldn’t understand. But just a few weeks later they did understand, because as children of God, “the Spirit itself bore witness to their spirits.”
One of the Holy Spirit’s great ministries among His saints is that of comfort.
Repeating myself once again, the Saviour said in John 16 – “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Everything the Lord Jesus was to the disciples before the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit has become since Jesus’ His ascension.
Can you imagine the two or three of the disciples walking through the streets of Jerusalem shortly after the Lord called them into His ministry? They were fishermen; they were unlearned in the things of God according to the Pharisees. They had no power, no authority, and certainly no confidence. There is evidence to suggest that they would have been afraid to speak Jesus’ name in public. When they were with Christ, it was a different matter, but without Him they were nothing. Look at Peter denying that he was a disciple; look at most of them avoiding Golgatha. But by Acts 2 they were a powerful band of Christians equipped to revolutionize the world. And the difference was the presence of the Holy Spirit, giving them boldness, confidence and comfort.
In John 14 Jesus had said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” Christ was saying – “I will be coming to you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.”
Remember, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” – II Tim. 1:7. And how were these gifts given? Through the indwelling presence of His Spirit. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” If we lack these blessings, it is not because of the Holy Spirit’s failure but because of OUR spirit’s failure.
How does “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God?”
He does so through the almost indescribable assurance He gives to God’s saints.
We could return to almost every scripture we’ve shared together this morning, pointing to the confidence and assurance they can give to the believer. Christ Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever… …Ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God?” “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God (in the way of righteousness) they are the sons of God.”
I Corinthians 3:16 asks the question: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Whether you want to picture God’s spirit indwelling your body or your soul, both are essentially correct. And what harm can befall the temple of God when His Spirit dwells therein?
Going back to Romans 8 – verses 1-2 tell us – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Does the Holy Spirit witness to your heart that you are freed from the penalty of your sin – death? Verse 9 adds, “Now if any have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ (the Spirit of Christ) be in you… the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And “if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. “And as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God.” Then there is the blessing of verse 15 – “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-hers with Christ.”
There is a great statement given to the Galatians in chapter 4 – “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Does your heart cry out to God, “Abba, Father”? Or do you tremble to think of standing before Him? Does the Holy Spirit encourage you to come like a child to the sovereign and omnipotent Judge of the universe, or do you still want to avoid Him at all costs? The words “Abba Father” are a part of the ministry of the Spirit in the heart of every child of God. Do you hear Him? Is your heart drawn towards the Lord? “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God?”
The Twenty-third Psalm is usually – and properly – applied to the Lord Jesus. But let’s not forget that as Christ and His Father are one; so is the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Christ. Please turn to Psalm 23 and follow along as I read and paraphrase. “The Spirit of Christ is my shepherd; I shall not want. Is it wrong to suggest that the Holy Spirit might be the “Lord” of this Psalm? He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Because those who belong to God are lead of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for God’s Spirit is with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
The Holy Spirit strengthens, restores, rehydrates and reinvigorates the soul of the saint. Satan may point to my sins and suggest that I cannot really be a child of God. But the Spirit restoreth my soul; He comforts me; and reassures me of the cleansing blood of the red heifer – Christ Jesus. He reminds me of how the Lord saved me, and He points to the faith which He gave me to trust Christ.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Do you sense that witness? Do you have the assurance of the Holy Spirit this morning? Perhaps that witness is lacking in your life because you have actually not been born again of the Spirit. You haven’t been regenerated – quickened – made alive. As the Spirit leads you this morning, humble yourself before God, and put your trust in the Saviour. He has shed his blood as a ransom for many – hasn’t He done so for you?